Shadow Cities: Nomads + Nanomaterials

Interdisciplinary and collaborative, the SHADOW CITIES studio at the GSD explores the intersection of architecture, technology development and social action. More than 2 billion people do not have access to electric power or light, many of these live in urban areas. By 2030, when graduate students in this studio will be in the prime of their practices, the organizational models of urban infrastructure will be completely transformed by the needs of a doubled global population, mass migrations, and the energy shortages of an end game oil economy. Technology Remix: El TerminalSHADOW CITIES will reconsider the traditional relationship between building infrastructure and architectural form through the design of a new public bus terminal and market structure in the Centro district of the Mexican city of Zacatecas. The Bus Terminal with its associated Mercado and Residencia programs totaling 30,000 SF, will be designed using textile reinforced (thin shell) TRC concrete, currently being developed in Mexico and Europe, Unlike conventional concrete which historically has resisted the incorporation of infrastructure, TRC concrete is a material composite of concrete and reinforcing textile mesh. In their Bus Terminal designs, students will apply creative thinking about this composite concrete construction and propose how the reinforcing textile may become a host for an opportunistic and parasitical \”first\” infrastructure that takes advantage of solid state technology. Students will design portable and adaptable \”nomadic\” power and lighting systems for Huichol artisans and their families using high brightness light emitting diodes and flexible photo-voltaics. Design concepts will be developed to integrate these digital technologies in a flexible textile form factor that will be mobile and rapidly deployable, engaging and detaching from the concrete building envelope of the Bus TerminalNomadsSHADOW CITIES will study and address the needs of the nomadic Huichol people of Mexico, The Huichol (Wirrarica) are one of the few indigenous groups in Mexico to have maintained a large corpus of Mesoamerican textile weaving, thatch and wood braiding traditions. The Huichol are a nomadic culture, traveling (often on foot) 400 miles on annual journeys to the Pacific and the Sierra Oriental. In the last three decades, the arrivals of airstrips and roadways have threatened Huichol traditional ways of life and the natural resources of their lands. Many Huichols seek work as artisans or day laborers. On their travels, the Huichol pass through the studio site in Zacaectas, appropriating the existing urban infrastructure, making do with commercially available appliances or going without. These collective acts of appropriation, piracy and subsistence will be of interest to the studio as urban practices that are distributed, localized, and self-sufficient.NanomaterialsThis studio is a pioneering first collaboration between Harvard\’s GSD and Harvard\’s DEAS (Department of Engineering and Applied Science). Graduate students in DEAS with expertise in photo-voltaics (nanomaterials) and digital electronics will work with GSD students to design adaptable nomadic infrastructure for their Bus Terminal projects. Lightweight, easily rolled, folded, or compressed, readily transported or carried on or about the body – high brightness light emitting diodes in a textile form factor can be powered by renewable thin film photo-voltaics, creating a fully autonomous, off -the-grid light \”engine\” to provide electrical power for energy efficient illumination for education, household artisan economic production, medical examinations and community practices. The creative hybridization and re-purposing of existing technologies – consistent with Huichol traditions of weaving–will be encouraged in combination with the design of intelligent and novel \”bridge\” components. Using both the GSD and DEAS modeling, fabrication and engineering wor